Remember that time when you were a kid, standing on the toilet, watching your dazzling mother brush her hair that looked exactly like it came out of the mouth of a sunset and you asked her to marry you?
Well I do, AND she said yes! I couldn’t even believe it because there she was getting ready to perform in a talent show, in front of throngs of impassioned fans, and she had time to accept my proposal.
Putting her brush down next to the sink she turned around, tailcoat swinging below the knees, and declared,
“Why Jessie, it would be my honor to marry you.” She then reached over to grab her black satin top hat and gave me a deep curtain call curtsy. Next thing I knew I was wearing the hat, eyeballs half hidden, while she tugged and straightened her fishnets.
Leila, in all her glory, looked like she catapulted directly from Fosse’s loins and into our bathroom. Matte black character shoes climbed up through mile high legs on fishnet tights that connected to a satin black leotard coattail combo that literally topped off with the perfect hat, upper brim slick and smooth. Just for a second imagine what it would be like if Anne Reinking, but really your mom, was getting ready in your bathroom!!
Getting back to reality, this Broadway revue took place at the country club where my dad liked to golf, not anywhere close to 42nd Street! I remember driving up the slithering curvaceous driveway and felt electricity in the atmosphere before even stepping inside. There was a glow, a pulse that came from within. It felt a little like observing a party thrown by the Great Gatsby, except this green carpeted, kinda stuffy, chandelier oppressive, Henry James scene of a place was no match; or at least not yet! We were all ushered to our seats by Gail, the famous club hostess, who was beloved by all and kept everyone and everything organized in a straight, respectable, well-kept line. The murmurs in the room started as a hushed whisper, and as the lights dimmed and the rent for a wedding or Bar Mitzvah dance floor, ballroom turned razzle dazzle the whispers grew into loud, gossipy delight. When I previously mentioned “Impassioned fans” I was referring to club members who were the polar opposite of my mother; different in culture, background, religion, family and experiences – not to mention, age. My mother was younger; let’s face it, Doc took the path less traveled (at least back then) and this whole scene was an anomaly. With this being said, the crowd could have been callous, aloof or cruel; the women could have been caddy, dishy, unkind.
She killed it.
Red, glowing lights somehow filled the backdrop of this space and “Magic to do” started the show. Pippin transitioned into Cats, that purred and pawed with Chicago, sidling up next to Evita who then back-slapped West Side Story mamboing with class and sass into the finale A Little Night Music. Before my mom began her last song she stopped and looked right at me, waved and said, “Hi Jessie. I love you.” I got to sit in the front row that night; I was a puddle in an armchair. The next moments will forever blend from my true memory to fantasy to movie to dream. “Send in the Clowns” rolled and hummed from my mother like the sweetest, most husky poem. As the phrase goes, “You could hear a pin drop.” I looked over at my dad whose face was glistening in tear drops and pride. I loved seeing him like that.
‘…Isn’t it rich, isn’t it queer
Losing my timing this late in my career
And where are the clowns
Quick send in the clowns
Don’t bother they’re here…’
My mother bowed and smiled to the left and right, blew a kiss to the audience and walked off the stage. The lights came up and no one said a word; then, thunderous applause. I turned to find my dad and all I saw were his buddies shaking his hand or hugging him; the women scurried around with daisies and droopy carnations asking Gail to please give the flowers to my mom. Many people came up to me that night saying all sorts of stuff and I remember many wet kisses and shoulder squeezes and fist bumps to the cheeks. The three of us left that night together. I drove home in the backseat feeling warm and lucky.
If you have followed along with all my tales you know that I got into trouble just a little bit growing up and never missed an opportunity to push the limits, the buttons, take air out of a car tire, by accident walk into a hotel room that did NOT belong to my family and mess with just about everything! In just a short 7 years I got myself into many a pickle. After treading some rough waters, experimenting with a lie or two and recovering from the pangs of growth I always remember my mom kissing the top of my head, bringing me vanilla ice cream with Rice Krispies sprinkled on top and she would say, “There’s no need to call the clowns in just yet Jessie.”
While my dad and I prodded through life without her he would frequently quote my mother when I would find myself, once again, in the middle of something sticky.
“Jess, you’ll figure it out; no need to send in the clowns just yet.”
Now while this was not always the most directive and clear statement there was always room for understanding and a redo.
Desirée was made a fool by Fredrik. She found the insight and courage to tell him he was the one for her, but it was too late. Looking at her reflection in the mirror of symbolism she accepted the fact that the scene in her life she wanted to rewrite was already written and sent to the press. The clowns had arrived and they were not the desired punchline of her story.
2021 is upon us; we have a chance to rewrite our scripts; we have a chance to do better. Let’s remember those beautiful lives whose stories ended too soon and be in control of which clowns come to what party. Let’s take care of each other, call our own shots and continue to teach our children and remember for ourselves the meaning of humility, patience, resilience and forgiveness.
When your kid decides to cover your girlfriend’s cat in ponytail holders because she is creative, mainly bored and quite pissed that that damn cat scratched her hand when she was just trying to pet the turd, give her a do-over.